Monday, October 05, 2009

Thursday - September 17th: Stevens Point to Near Petenwell Dam

I awoke this morning to a very damp sleeping bag and a dense fog. I could hardly make out the sign that I was camped by. It said, “ No Camping in the Park!” Well, how was I to know, I am from out of town.

Anyway, I thought maybe I should not push my luck so I quickly put together my bike trailer and was off. I made a quick stop at a McDonalds and looked over my info on the portage around this dam. Yesterday I did not realize I had two dams within a couple of miles of each other and both with descriptions of difficult portages. So, I bike about 3 miles around both dams and entered at Al Tech Park.

Finally back on the water. The fog had not lifted yet (see picture) so I stayed close to shore for a few miles. By about 7:30 it was going and I was in store for another beautiful day.

In ten miles I came to the my third dam, the Biron Dam. Because again it would have been a difficult portage at the dam, (portage notes: Take-out on the steep rip rapped bank and proceed down the dike to a trail for a ¼ mile portage into the right channel.) I took out at a boat landing about a mile before the dam and re entered at another boat landing about a ½ mile below the dam. Three dams and it’s not even 10:00 in the morning and in four miles I have three more dams to get around in the Wisconsin Rapids area. Going to be one of those days again.

As I approached Wisconsin Rapids I gave a call to my long time friend Ken McGrath. Ken and his wife Sue have lived in Wisconsin Rapids for years. He’s also a retired teacher, but still does a lot of substitute teaching. Sue still works as a Registered Nurse. Ken and I, “Newt” as I call him, have been friends as long as Jim McIntyre and I have. The three of us grew up together in Barron, WI. Jim stayed in Barron while in seventh grade, Ken and family moved to New York and I to the Minneapolis area. Even though that happened we still have stayed very close for all these years. In fact, as I mentioned at the beginning, on Saturday I will be leaving the river and meeting Ken and Jim for our annual Packers game trip. Also, our wives knew each other before we knew them for they went to the same nursing school in Minneapolis. Small world.

Newt was able to come down and say a quick hello as I was getting ready for my next bike portage. He was on his way to Madison to help one of his sons.

I asked him about the dams and he thought it would be best to go around all three for they were not that far apart and find a place to get in after the Port Edwards dam. Glad he said that for I’d already decided to do that figuring I could get to a little side lake outside Wisconsin Rapids. My road map showed a small river leading from the lake back to the Wisconsin River. By doing this I would not have to cross the Bridge to Port Edwards on the other side of river and fight traffic. So, after taking a picture of Newt, I was on my way. It did not take long to get to my little lake and I felt good about now only having one more dam to go around in Nekoosa.

As I was getting ready to put back into the water at the landing an older fellow was there (well, older than me) and came over to see what I was up to. After a few minutes of conversation with me explaining my adventure to him, I was about to put in and shove off when he said, “Coach, if you are canoeing the length of the Wisconsin River, why are you putting in here?”

I stopped and looked at him and explain my reasoning, which I quickly found out was wrong. Reason being that little river I was going to paddle back to the Wisconsin on had a dam at the end of this lake and no water below it to paddle in.

Okay, now what. As you know one of my few rules is not to go backwards unless absolutely necessary. So it was off to Nekoosa - another 9 to 10 miles down the road.

I put my bike trailer back together, thanked the man and headed on my way. As I turned back onto the road I took a quick look back at the older gentlemen and he had this look on his face as to whether this nut really knew what he’s doing. Sometimes I wonder the same about myself.

Anyway when I finally did get back into the water I met another guy, Kerry. Another nice person that gave me some very good advice about the algae on Petenwell Flowage.

He told me it was very thick and very toxic. Last year they even closed the flowage for awhile because dogs and cats were dying from it. After some nice conversation with Kerry I was finally on my way. It was now about 1:00 or so and I probably had paddled for less than an hour and half and I’ve covered 30 miles of river by my portaging. Maybe for the first time it will be an early stop.

Once on the water it did not take long to get to the Petenwell Flowage. The following is a description from my internet notes: “The 23,040 acre Petenwell Flowage is the second largest inland body of water in Wisconsin. Rough water from wind and large boats can be hazardous to canoeists. Individuals must use extreme caution because of the size, complexity, and constantly changing conditions.”

I had none of the above problems. I crossed it with again a slight breeze to my back and no more than a ripple of wave action. Toughest part was working through the thick green algae Kerry had warned me about. (See pictures)

Yes, for the first time it was an early stop. Well, at least it was not dark. Very good day and five more dams are behind me thanks to my bike trailer system. If I may say so myself, I really like my set up. My bike - trailer system (My friend Jim Woodruff refers to it as my “junk yard”) not only comes in handy for the difficult portages, but it really helps in working my leg muscles that get little exercise in 12 or more hours of paddling.

Heck, it’s still light out and I’m sitting on shore just staring out over the water. Maybe I should keep going??? (I DIDN”T)


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